The Mind Game of Batting: Former Major League Baseball Player Hitting AdviceSports
The great Ted Williams summed up the mental game of hitting very easily when he said “Get a good pitch to hit.” Of course, there is much more that can be advised on the mental game of hitting, but ultimately that is the best advice when a batter is in the batter’s box. All the analysis, preparation, and visualization must end when a batter faces the pitcher and hitting a good pitch is all that is left to focus.
I often ask my hitting students, “What makes a great hitter? Those who are good two strike-hitters or those who aren’t?” Most respond: “Those with two strikes.” Of course, that’s better than the alternative, but I answer, “Not necessarily.” When a hitter has two strikes, especially when this happens often, the hitters are in defensive mode and at the mercy of the pitch. I try to convince them that the great hitters are the ones who make good decisions before they get two strikes.
With this in mind, the following are things that will help baseball players’ mental game of batting:
1. Get ready and wait for the first pitch to be in the middle of the plate. When the pitch is there, the batters must hit it. The odds of a batter hitting the ball solidly are greatly increased when the balls are in the middle of the plate, regardless of whether it is high or low. When he’s not in the middle, hitters have to leave him.
2. When batters are ahead in the count, they should think about the pitch they hit the best: in, out, high, low. Whatever it is, that’s the pitch they should be looking for with a 1 and 0 count. As stated above, if that pitch comes, they should swing and put aside all other pitches, balls, or strikes.
3. When the batter falls behind in the count before two strikes, batters should know the two-thirds of the plate they handle best and only swing if the ball is in that zone. It pays to risk having two strikes when the first two strikes are in an area where the attacker does not hit well.
4. With two strikes, all batters are equal. When a pitch is a strike or very close to a strike, the batter must swing to avoid being called out on strikes. The pitcher definitely has the advantage when the batter has two strikes because the batter must be prepared to handle every inch of the plate, from smallest to largest.
To help with this full plate coverage, hitters must learn to look for pitches on the outside of the plate and adapt to pitches that are on the inside half of the plate. This philosophy better protects the hitter from outside pitches and off speed because it will help them open too early on those pitches.
As players reach the highest level of balls and throwers are more consistent, they can change this approach to take advantage of their strengths and the pitcher’s weaknesses. Also, the best hitters stay confident because they have a good fundamental swing, they have trained in practice, and they believe in that swing so they can make good contact, regardless of the count. Finally, hitting coaches should help young hitters learn about their individual strengths and weaknesses to aid in their “mental hitting game.”